TORONTO -- Mike Napoli finally broke out of his slump on Wednesday night, but even if the first baseman had contributed more than his game-tying two-run homer in the ninth inning, he still wouldn't have been in the lineup Thursday. Daniel Nava was penciled in at first base in the Red Sox lineup on Thursday as manager John Farrell said that he had already made the call to give Napoli a day off.
"The decision was made for this to be a down day for him. We're going to get in at 3 a.m. [Friday morning] and we've got another left-hander in [Andy Pettitte on the mound against us tomorrow night," Farrell said, speaking of Friday night's game against the Yankees. "We've got a challenging 10 days ahead of us and we're just trying to keep everyone involved as best we can and find the matchups that make the most sense."
Napoli has a pretty similar batting line against both right-handed and left-handed pitchers this year, though he naturally favors hitting against lefties as a right-handed batter. Against Blue Jays starter Mark Buehrle, however, Napoli is just 4-for-19 with one homer and two walks in his career, which could have factored into Farrell's decision.
While Napoli's homer came at a big time for the Sox, it was still his only hit in five at-bats during the 4-3 loss to Toronto. Napoli is hitting .136 (9-for-66) in 78 plate appearances since July 26.
Farrell said Wednesday that he would explore giving Nava and Mike Carp more time at first base, and it was Nava who drew the assignment on Thursday, his sixth start of the year at first. Nava, a career outfielder, hadn't played the position before this season but said he's "much more comfortable" with the new role than he was earlier in the season.
"I'm still learning on the job but fortunately I have Butters [third base coach Brian Butterfield] with the infield instruction and advanced understanding of where every ball is going to be hit," Nava said.
Of the three men involved in the first-base mix, the switch-hitting Nava actually has a lower career OPS (.609 in 200 ABs) against left-handed pitching than Napoli or the left-handed hitting Carp (.796 OPS). Nava is 2-for-6 against Buehrle, however, including a homer on May 1 during Boston's 10-1 win over Toronto.
* A day after Clay Buchholz threw a 50-pitch bullpen session, the right-hander still wasn't showing any ill effects. Farrell said Buchholz did some mild work on Thursday and is scheduled to throw another bullpen session on Saturday.
"It was just a light catch day for him today," Farrell said. "He came out of yesterday feeling good. ... It's supported further by how he feels today."
* The Red Sox were victorious on Aug. 15, 1997 but have lost their last 13 games on this date (with off-days in 2008 and 2011). This oddity of a losing streak has been dubbed "The Affleck Curse" in reference to the fact that Aug. 15 is the birthday of Ben Affleck. The actor/director/Red Sox superfan turns 41 years old today.
The losing streak began in 1998, less than five months after Affleck and Matt Damon won Academy Awards for co-writing "Good Will Hunting," so perhaps Affleck's latest brush with Oscar gold will end the so-called curse. Affleck won another Oscar for co-producing the Best Picture-winning "Argo" at the most recent Academy ceremony.